Moss Surname Genealogy

There have been two principal origins of the Moss surname, one English and the other Jewish.  The English version came from the Old English word mos, meaning “bog” or “morass,” and would describe someone who lived by a bog or morass.  The Jewish form was from Moses, the Jewish leader who led the Israelites out of Egypt.  Moses often became Moss in England and America as a less identifiable Jewish name. 
Select Moss Resources on The Internet

Moss Ancestry

English version of the Moss surname seems centered around Lancashire
and the northwest, the Jewish version around London and the southeast.

Lancashire.  The Moss surname has
continued to be found in
areas where mosses or peat bogs have
existed.  Thus the largest number of
Mosses in the 1881 census was in Ashton under Lyne, close
by Ashton Moss. Manchester and Salford
were also well represented in bogs and in names.

From Manchester came the Rev. William Moss,
born there in 1571 and father of one of the early settlers of the New
Haven colony
in America, and Edward (Ted) Moss, born there in 1852 and the theater
impresario who founded Moss Empires.

A Moss line on Merseyside began with John Moss of Hurst House, born
around 1717.  His son Thomas moved to Liverpool where he operated
as a timber merchant on the Salthouse dock, bringing in his son John as
a partner in 1803.  John Moss was to make his fortune as a banker
and Caribbean plantation owner.  He built a fine new house for
himself, Otterpool
, along the Otterpool creek in 1812.

Moss peat bogs and Moss name extended southward into
Staffordshire and eastward into Yorkshire.
The Moss name featured among the
potters of Stoke-on-Trent
in the late 18th and early 19th


Perhaps the first to arrive was Samuel Moses from Alsace in France who
was probably in London sometime in the 1780’s.
His son Jacob had children who emigrated to Australia and Canada
in the
1840’s and 1850’s, generally as Moss, and were instrumental in the
formation of
Jewish congregations in Sydney and Montreal.

Of those who stayed in London was Moses
Moss who started what
became the Moss Bros clothing chain with his two shops in London’s
Garden in 1851.  After Moses’s death in
1894 Moss Bros remained in family hands through his sons Alfred and
George.  George’s son Harry followed Alfred as the next “Guvnor;”
while other family
members were on the company board.

Another Moss family began in Whitechapel in
the East End of London in the mid-19th century with Nathan Moses and
then with Abraham
Moss who married outside his faith.
Abraham’s son Alfred was a successful dentist in London and a
racing driver.  Alfred’s son Stirling,
who got bullied at school for being Jewish, grew up to be the famous
racing driver;
while his sister Pat achieved her own fame as one of the most
successful women
rally drivers of all time.

Other noted Jewish families in the 19th century were
the Moss family of Portsea in Hampshire, headed by Joseph Moss a glass
merchant, and the Moss family in Stepney and Bermondsey, bootmakers and

or Mosse is an Ulster name, mainly found in
Tyrone and along the Tyrone-Donegal border.
If Irish, the name probably originates from the Gaelic Maolmona, where the suffix –mona is
thought to have derived from moin meaning “peat bog.”

America.  John Moss was one of the
early settlers of
the New Haven colony, arriving there on the Hector
in 1637. His origins are uncertain.
Some sources have him coming from Lancashire,
others from Berkshire.  He died in
Wallingford, Connecticut in 1707 apparently at the great age of 103.

The line
from his grandson John claims Clint Eastwood as a descendant, from
grandson Benjamin Charles William Post and Dina Merriill as descendants.  Sometime in the 1800’s the surname spelling
changed from Moss to Morse, although some lines remained Moss.

Virginia and the South.  Edward Moss from Lancashire appears to have
been the progenitor of an early Moss family in York county, Virginia
dating back
to the 1640’s and possibly earlier.  John
Moss of this line fought in the Revolutionary War and was a farmer in
, as were his sons William and Thomas.

Another Moss line was that beginning with John
Moss who was born in Goochland county, Virginia in 1707.  After
the Revolutionary
War some stayed in Virginia, others moved to the
Carolinas, while
the line from Nathaniel Moss headed further south and eventually made
its home around
1812 in Louisiana.

Georgia has a relatively large Moss population today.
The earliest arrival might well have been Joseph
Moss from Yorkshire who was in Clarke county by 1803 and married Sophia
there ten years later.

Then there was a Virginia line that passed through
Kentucky and settled in Paris, Missouri.
Preston B. Moss headed west from there to Billings, Montana in
where he built himself an extravagant red-stoned mansion.
It served as the family home until 1984.  It
has the reputation of being haunted.

Jewish.  John Moss from London
immigrated to
Philadelphia in the 1790’s and was one of its early merchants.  His grandson Lucien, born in 1831, is
for his philanthropy and for the scrapbooks he left behind describing
life in America.

Canada.  An exodus of fishermen from
Dorset to
Newfoundland in the 1780’s included two Moss brothers, William and
John, from
Corfe Castle.  They settled initially in
Keels and Open Hall near Bonavista Bay before spreading across
Newfoundland.  Their story was covered in
Malcolm Moss’s
2014 book The Mosses of Bonavista Bay and

St. Helena.  The remote
Atlantic island of St. Helena was an unlikely setting for a
Jewish Moss family from London. George
Moss had come to work for the Jewish entrepreneur Saul Solomon who had
on the island by accident in 1790.  Moss
lived for more than forty years at Longwood House which had been
first home of exile there.  Many of his
descendants emigrated to New Zealand in the 1850’s and 1860’s.  Frederick Moss prospered as a businessman in

Australia and New Zealand.
Down Under attracted other Jewish Moss
settlers as well.  Joseph Moss had left
London via Australia for New Zealand in the early 1860’s where he was a
teacher and choirmaster in Dunedin. His
son Matthew returned to Australia, in this case to Western Australia,
became a cabinet minister there in the early 1900’s.

A much later arrival was the Auschwitz survivor Sam Moss who came to
Australia in 1948 and launched the successful Katies fashion stores in
1950’s.  He died in 2016 at the ripe old
of ninety.

Of course there were other Moss settlers in Australia who were not
Jewish.  Two families who came to
Melbourne in the mid-19th century were:

  • Thomas
    Moss and his wife Mary who left
    Manchester on an assisted bounty program in 1841.  Their
    voyage on the Frankfield to Australia was a lengthy
    one as it went via Rio de
  • and
    a Moss family from Surrey who departed for Australia in stages in
    the 1850’s.  The first to leave were the
    Rev. William Moss, a Congregational minister, and his sister Anne Moss
    who met her future husband on

Moss Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Moss Names


started what became the
Moss Bros clothing chain with his first two shops in London’s Covent
Garden in
Ted Moss
founded the Moss Empires theater combine in 1900.  Moss
Empires grew to be the largest variety
theatre group in Britain and possibly at one time in the world.
Stirling Moss

was a British racing driver who was either second or third in the
F1 championship each year between 1955 and 1961.

Kate Moss
is an English supermodel first discovered
at the young age of fourteen in Croydon in 1988

Select Mosses Today

  • 34,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 26,000 in America (most numerous in Georgia)
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



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